Can CBD help with chronic pain?
CBD or cannabidiol is a chemical compound (known as a ‘cannabinoid’) found in hemp plants. It interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a communication network of transmitters located throughout the human body. Your ECS is linked to a number of physiological processes including sleep, appetite, mood, memory, immune function, fertility, pregnancy, pre/post-natal development, and, significantly, pleasure & pain.
Hemp has been used medicinally for at least 2000 years. Its medicinal effects, however, have not undergone a large amount of modern research and as a result, it is impossible to say with certainty exactly what they are. CBD, as just one component found in the plant, has different effects compared, for example, with THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, another chemical compound found in the plant, particularly associated with the high caused by cannabis use). Furthermore, there are over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants, and they interact differently and in as yet unknown ways with one another when greater or lesser amounts are present.
CBD and pain relief
Notwithstanding all of the above, the studies that do exist suggest that CBD might be able to provide an effective treatment for pain. For instance, a study done on rats by the European Journal of Pain indicated that CBD has therapeutic potential for the relief of arthritis when applied to the skin. After 4 days of CBD gel application, pain scores “were significantly improved compared to animals in the vehicle control group”.
It has also been suggested in a study by Frontiers in Neurology that people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease with a wide range of symptoms including pain, could benefit from CBD use “to reduce fatigue, pain, spasticity, and ultimately improve mobility”. Their reasons behind this conclusion include the fact that twenty-nine states in the United States have legalized cannabis for medical use specifically for a number of diseases including MS, along with a further sixteen that have legalized it for general medical use. They also cite anecdotal evidence that an increasing number of people with MS are using cannabis to combat their symptoms.
In a review of 16 studies with 1750 participants on drug use to treat chronic neuropathic pain, it was found that cannabis-based medicines “may increase the number of people achieving 50% or greater pain relief compared with placebo”. The caveat, however, is that there is a lack of good evidence that any cannabis‐derived product helps to relieve chronic neuropathic pain and in cases, the benefits may not outweigh the potential harm.
A further case report from Paediatric Dermatology reported on the self-prescribed use of CBD in patients with epidermolysis bullosa, a group of rare inherited skin disorders:
“One patient was weaned completely off oral opioid analgesics. All 3 reported faster wound healing, less blistering, and amelioration of pain with cannabidiol use. Although these results demonstrate promise, further randomized, double‐blind clinical trials are necessary to provide scientific evidence of our observed benefits of cannabidiol for the treatment of epidermolysis bullosa.”
Dosage and side effects
Side effects from CBD use are generally mild and vary from person to person. They can include changes in appetite or mood as well as drowsiness and nausea. It is possible that CBD can increase liver enzymes, and as a result, you should check with your doctor if you have any liver-related problems.
There are no set dosage limits for CBD oil use, so in general, we encourage you to refer to one of the professional dosage guides who will recommend the best-suited products and doses for your needs.
In conclusion, there is clear potential for the development of pain relief products based on CBD. The resounding expert view, however, is that the current evidence is not sufficient to give definitive answers to CBD’s efficacy. If you have any questions or you are unsure whether CBD is right for you, please feel free to get in touch.
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